Local campaign would cut new HIV cases in half

Six months after launching the “Roadmap to Ending HIV In Houston Campaign,” Legacy Community Health (LCH) held a symposium with the multiple stakeholders involved in their plan to look at progress made and what’s needed over the next six months.

The campaign parallels plans that have been implemented in other major cities such as New York and San Francisco, and is the first of its kind in Texas.

“Our goal is to cut all new HIV cases in half within five years, taking the diagnoses down from about 1,200 to 60 by expanding access to preventative care and launching marketing campaigns to fight stigmas that hinder people from seeking treatment,” said Venita Ray, public policy manager at LCH.

“However, people will not access care if they do not feel welcome in the space, or if the services are delivered in a culturally insensitive manner.”

The plan calls on new city, county and state funding to educate the public and physicians about the disease, train medical providers to create environments that are welcoming and culturally sensitive in collaboration with members of the key populations, increase access to testing and care among poor and immigrant populations, and reform the criminal justice system to slow the spread of the virus among the incarcerated.

Shelley Lucas, manager of HIV/STD Prevention & Care Branch at the Texas Department of State Health Services, noted several accomplishments as a result of the plan.

“We’ve put out $10 million statewide, and $3million of it was infused here in Houston for services like the AIDS Drug Assistance Program to help with hiring of workers and training of staff so that they are aware of implicit biases and negative stereotypes,” Lucas said.

“We’ve also increased access to medication and support for the PrEP pill implementation in high morbidity places.”

Another accomplishment is Data to Care (D2C), a new public health strategy that aims to use HIV surveillance data to identify diagnosed individuals not in care, link them to care, and support the HIV care continuum, a model that outlines the stages of medical care that people living with HIV go through.

Marlene McNeese, bureau chief of the Houston Health Department, said their main goals over the next six months are partnering with initiatives like My Brother’s Keeper and advocating for syringe exchange programs to “prevent addicts from sharing potentially contaminated needles and increasing access to HIV testing by expanding mobile testing units and free community clinics.”

For more information, visit: endhivhouston.org/

Community Forum

Tuesday, July 18, 6-7:30 p.m.
Legacy Community Health Montrose
1415 California St.